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21 Jul 2017

Haddo Madonna

Haddo Madonna painting
On Monday 17 July, Dr Matthias Wivel, curator of 16th-century paintings at the National Gallery in London, visited Haddo to view the Haddo Madonna.

The Haddo Madonna was acquired by George Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen, who was Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1852–55. After extensive periods spent in Europe he became an avid collector of Renaissance art and owned, amongst many other works, Titian’s An Allegory of Prudence (now in the National Gallery, London).

Lord Aberdeen acquired the Haddo Madonna as a work by the Renaissance Master, Raphael. Raffaello Sanzio (1483–1520) was born in Urbino, but as his fame rose he moved to Rome in 1508 where, in order to complete his numerous commissions, he ran a large studio with many assistants.

Subsequently, the Haddo Madonna’s link to this famous artist was queried and it was relegated to a designation of ‘After Raphael’. However, in 2016 art historian Dr Bendor Grosvenor featured the painting on the BBC4 programme, Britain’s Lost Masterpieces, proposing that the attribution to Raphael was in fact correct.

We are now working with Dr Matthias Wivel, curator of 16th-century paintings at the National Gallery in London, to try to arrive at a definitive attribution for the painting.

Dr Wivel visited Haddo House on a beautiful hot day in July and was able to see the painting out of its frame, and in natural light, so that a really close inspection was possible.

Painted on poplar (the most commonly used wood for Renaissance panel paintings), the picture has clearly been cut down from a larger composition. Dr Wivel commented that the painting appears to be in generally good condition with very few additions or alterations, and although some areas of the dress and the right hand are of a less high standard, the face is particularly fine and closely resembles other Madonnas painted by Raphael during his Roman period.

Dr Wivel was sufficiently enthusiastic about the picture that he has proposed it goes to the National Gallery in London for further research. This will also give an opportunity for other scholars working in this field to see and comment on this very interesting painting.

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